Monday, April 20, 2015

plotting a burial

In the event, it was my older son who more or less configured my mother's burial. When I mentioned to him yesterday that I was thinking of making the trip to the river where I had promised my mother her ashes would eventually go and asked if he had any interest in going, he said he thought we should all go -- all of my family. I had considered that, but wanted to give those concerned an escape hatch if it felt too disconcerting or disruptive in their lives.

My son was not insistent, but his framework seemed more settled than my own so ... OK. So now, the coalescing plan seems to be to go up next Saturday and ... and do what I'm not entirely sure, but at any rate keep a promise I made to my mother. My daughter said she would come. And my wife said that was what she had suggested from the get-go and my younger son ... well, I imagine he will be along for the family ride. Death is part of the warp and woof and can provide a maturing instructor, but there is something within me that resists the religious or philosophical formalities that would make things smoother, easier, more-falsely-anointed: When there is nothing to say, why say it? On the other hand, maybe saying it is OK.

And after the burial ball got rolling yesterday, the hammer of closing costs on my mother's death descended. The agency which had facilitated the care for my mother in her waning years -- more especially the very nice and competent man who took up the responsibilities -- sent the bill. I knew it would be something and I dreaded its impact on the fixed-income-two-kids-living-at-home-paying-for-a-new-furnace-daily-needs budget.

But finally, there it was in black and white: $12,000-plus. Where was I supposed to get that kind of money? My mother died in a relative penury, so she couldn't really help and I had relied on the agency to bring her a relative comfort and ease as she moved towards death.

Well, don't do the crime if you can't do the time ... or, perhaps, as you choose, so shall you be chosen. Hiring the agency was a choice and a good one, but a choice without a price tag -- present or future -- is juvenile. Yes, I am juvenile and panicky and far from the responsible person who wants to address and solve each problem promptly as it arises. I no longer have the social energy to be a grown-up ... so the black-and-white bill seemed to collapse whatever was left of my social lungs. A shitstorm of old habits rises up to nag and prod. I don't want to have to be responsible and I am responsible.

I hate the great vortex of circular whining that does nothing but make self-serving noise, and the whiner rises up and whines ... around and around and around. Who am I to be complaining, given the depredations that are everywhere visible and vile in this life? Shut up and get on with it: You're not starving or dispossessed; you have not lost every family member in the latest suicide bombing; you are not hungry and bereft. If you have enough energy to whine -- and there seems to be plenty of that -- then you have enough energy to be responsible. But I don't want to be responsible ... it takes too much literal energy. I want things to be done because I want them to be done and not because I have done them.

Oh well ... I've gotten my rocks off here a bit and this morning I will talk with the fellow who took such good care of my mother in her latter years. No doubt the conversation will cast a new light on the very black-and-white difficulty. I know, from past experience, that I will be responsible to whatever extent I can ... it's an ego thing ... but I hate being dragged back to a responsible stance when I want to relax on a cushion of well-that's-been-taken-care-of.

In 1917, British troops, stalled like the Germans along the Western Front, dug 21(?) tunnels beneath enemy positions at the Messines Ridge in Belgium and packed them with explosives. Those who dug the tunnels were often British miners who had earlier been rejected for military service. The two sides faced each other across a no-man's-land that neither could take. But when 19 of the tunnels were set off on June 7, 1917, the explosions were so enormous that the shock waves were felt at 10 Downing Street in London, 140 miles away ... and the Swiss recorded the event as an earthquake. The explosions were described as the most powerful up until the atomic bomb decimated Hiroshima. Advancing British troops found not only enormous craters in the earth and swaths of dead soldiers, but also soldiers who survived but were left disoriented and weeping at the hugeness of the omnipresent horror.

And I quiver?

Well, I guess you get what you get.


  1. 12+k is still an ouch that deserves expression.

  2. The average nursing home cost in my part of northern New England is $375 per day. Your bill may hurt, but it could be worse. Besides, your mother's attendant seems to have been kind ... not always the case in institutions. My mother-in-law sometimes wore bracelets of bruises during her years in one of the better homes in these parts. She also lost her wedding ring -- twice.